THOMAS HODGKIN: Morbid Anatomist and Social Activist by Louis Rosenfeld

THOMAS HODGKIN: Morbid Anatomist and Social Activist

Email this review


Intriguing biography of a mid-19-century English physician whose Quaker conscience, idealism, and social activism provide a sharp contrast to the image of late-20th-century physicians as narrowly focused, high-tech specialists. Rosenfeld (Pathology/NYU Medical Center; The Truth about Vasectomy, 1973) has carefully researched the life and times of Hodgkin, whose medical fame rests on his recognition of the disease that bears his name. This achievement was remarkable in an age when microscopic examination of tissues was unknown, but Hodgkin's potential career in the emerging field of pathology was never realized. At Guy's Hospital, London, where he held the dual post of Inspector of the Dead and Curator of the Museum of Morbid Anatomy, Hodgkin was unable to move up the professional ladder. Neither his religion nor his views on social reform were ""politically correct,"" and he lacked the personal charm to overcome these handicaps. In addition to his clinical work, Hodgkin spread his energies over a range of interests--medical education, the metric system, ethnology, slavery, child labor, poor laws, public health, and the welfare of aboriginal tribes. Today, his humanitarianism seems quaint, if not suspect, for Hodgkin was a creature of his time, and his concern for primitive people and slaves was shaped by his underlying belief in the moral superiority of British culture and in its ability to end the ignorance and paganism of ""the simpler peoples."" A lively portrait of a unique personality, and an illuminating view of medicine and medical education at a time when grave robbers supplied corpses for dissection and medical students smoked cigars in dissecting rooms.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Madison Books--dist. by National Book Network